Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A walk in the ferny woods

Perhaps it’s the weather, but I’ve been in a "fern-y" phase this summer. I’ve always enjoyed ferns, but this year I have grown more interested in them. I’m surprised by the poor quality of the fern identification guides I’ve encountered, though all are obviously written by people who know much more about ferns than I do. One guide has great information but poor illustrations, which makes IDing the little emerald gems difficult. Another writes endlessly about fern spores and has only drawings of ferns, which is no help at all.

I have this niggling idea that a really good fern guide should be written for everyday enthusiasts like me and not just for the fern geeks of academia. Good photos, good range maps, interesting information—is that really too much to ask? But as usual, I digress.

What I wanted to show you this morning is one stretch of the woods on Roundtop where I’ve been finding some of the ferns. This photo was taken in an area slightly more open than average. You can see how lush and green the forest is right now. The lushness is not typical for mid-August. To my eye, this photo looks more like one I’d expect to learn was taken in mid-June.

The little two-track road leads down to the bottom of the mountain, though I took this shot about midway down, still some distance from the valley floor with its rocky stream and moist loam. Here, the forest is typically more sandy or at least better drained than down below, though I'm not sure you'd guess that from this appearance. Usually, this section of forest looks much drier in mid-August than it does today.

This summer has been especially rainy and cooler than average, which has likely made the ferns pretty happy and probably also accounts for their current abundance. It hasn’t hurt my feelings, either.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Nice post. And you're right about a real lack of a good, easy-to-use fern guide, although the last time I was in the highlands of North Carolina, a friend was using a little booklet—about 4x6 in. size and maybe 40 pages—that had great fern photos and I.D. info. I meant to have him pick up a copy for me, which he said was locally published. If he can still get one, I'll let you know—it wouldn't necessarily cover all the species in your woods, but I'll bet it have 90 percent.

BTW, your woods look about like mine, as lush and green as late-June.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: I thought I'd found my perfect fern guide when I came across one specifically for PA, but the close-ups of fronds aren't always very good--and that's the part I really need to see to make an ID.

let me know if you come across that little fern booklet!

Carolyn H.

Woodswalker said...

Sounds like your weather has been much like ours in northeastern NY, and your woods look like ours as well: very lush and green and ferny. I agree that the fern guides are often not very helpful to us rank beginners. It's good to find a fern expert and go ferning with that friend.

Cathy said...

Some my ferns up here are already turning brown. I don't know because weather meaning it has been on the cool side at night. Won't mention the rain either)

I don't think I had one 80 degree night so far. This past week, finally had a 90 degree day.

And for tonight, rain :(

Carolyn H said...

Woodswalker: I'd love to find a local fern expert, but i'm starting to think there aren't any. I guess I'll just have to turn myself into a fern expert!

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...

Cathy: Gee, has it been that cold up your way that ferns are turning brown already?? No 80 degree nights here, thank heaven. And I've only had one 90+ degree day, though they've had a few more down in Harrisburg--not many, though. I'm tired of this rain, even so.

Carolyn h.

Cathy said...

yea Carol, I do have patches of ferns that are dying. Don't know if it's the weather it being on the cool side at night. it seem to be one kind of fern that doing it too. Strange weather.